Stop-Time: A Memoir
by Frank Conroy
"Alone in the bow of the lighter, I breathed the salt air and looked up at the stars. Going home. Going home. Behind me the other passengers moved in the darkness, their voices muted by the wind. Slowly the boat swung around a jetty and out into the swell of the open sea. Dead ahead the huge ocean liner spilled light over the black water, its whole long side blazing under the starry sky. My skin tingled as our ship's horn blasted the air. Moments later the liner answered with a deep, bone-shaking note--an immense sea-mother calling her lost child."(p 277)
This is a memoir that reads like a novel and undoubtedly contains some fiction scattered among the exhilarating stories of Frank Conroy's youth. Covering the period up to his entrance into Haverford University this memoir creates a world pain and joy and the often awkward encounters of a young boy with real life. I was drawn back into the memoir upon reading a reference to it in David Ulin's wonderful extended essay, The Lost Art of Reading, where Ulin comments on young Conroy's reading habits. After cataloging some of the authors he was reading in the winter of his seventeenth year Conroy writes:
"I read very fast, uncritically, and without retention, seeking only to escape from my own life through the imaginative plunge into another. . . It was around this time that I first thought of becoming a writer."(p 230)
Conroy was not much a student so he probably retained more of his reading than he claims for, after a year in school in Paris, he was accepted into Haverford University. The memoir is filled with flights of imagination that demonstrate the potential author hidden in a young boy whose exploits and adventures are as exciting as most fiction that I have encountered. The memoir succeeds in bringing you, the reader, into that life as a co-conspirator in the adventure.
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